Ben was already standing outside the cathedral when Sally arrived. To her shame her breath caught at the sight of him, even more handsome now than the boy on the cusp of manhood she had fallen for. He’d been nearly twenty-three that summer, filled with an endearing enthusiasm for his PhD and his plans to change the world, so different from his contemporaries with their expensive cars and designer clothes. No wonder she’d forgotten the title he’d already inherited and all that came with it, had been duped into thinking they were the same. Young, bright and ambitious.
Now here he stood, in an expensive-looking suit, hair a little shorter, stubble a little more defined, shoulders a little broader, and she didn’t actually know him at all.
She smoothed down her jacket and tilted her chin as she walked up to him.
‘Where is she?’
It took her a moment to understand. ‘With friends. There’s no way I am introducing her to you without some guarantees and rules. If you even want to see her, that is.’
‘Of course I want to see her. According to you she’s mine.’
‘According to…’ Sally glared at him. ‘That’s it, we’re done.’
She half turned and he held his hands up in apology. ‘Okay, that was badly done of me. But come on, Sal…’ She flinched slightly at the old pet name. ‘I only found out she exists yesterday. Can you blame me for having questions?’
‘Yes, actually.’ It was his turn to flinch. ‘Stop lying, Ben. You are the one who said you didn’t want anything to do with her, who thought money was a suitable substitution for a father, who didn’t reply to a single one of my emails even when I sent you photos of her. I don’t know what game you’re playing…’
‘And I have no idea what you’re talking about. What money, what emails? Sally, I swear, I am not playing games. Something doesn’t add up here. Look, there’s a great café just around the corner. Let me buy you lunch and we can figure this out. Okay?’
Part of her wanted to run as fast as she could and hope fate never intervened again—but her daughter deserved to know her father and that meant she needed to try and get to the bottom of what had happened. Ben seemed genuinely shocked and confused, even though his reaction made no sense.
By unspoken accord they switched to neutral topics while they walked to the café. Ben told her about the investment hopes that had brought him to Asturia this autumn. She described some of the trips she had been on since arriving in the pretty mountainous country with Alice and their friend Jack and his daughters.
‘Jack?’ Ben was all studied ease. ‘Are you and he…’
‘No, he is just a friend.’ Jack Treloar was successful, handsome and a great father to his two daughters, but there was no spark between them. Not that it was any of Ben Montgomery’s business. She was here for her daughter’s sake. Nothing more.
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